Bus Stops at Centaur Theatre – Montreal

Photo Credit: Centaur Theatre / Theatre I.N.K.

I just got back literally two seconds ago from seeing the English-language world premiere of Marilyn Perreault’s play Bus Stops at Centaur Theatre, and man, I want to write this now before this show slips away from me.

I should mention I went in with high expectations. It’s unusual for me, but I’m seeing this show toward the end of its run (the last performance is on Sunday), and I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about it since it opened. This production completely blew me away. Like, ejected me from my chair and catapulted me through the roof. I’m just now finding my footing.

I mentioned this show slipping away from me, and that’s the thing. It’s very slippery. It leaves you with a feeling, this creepy, profoundly moving feeling. It’s very, very hard to describe, but I’m going to do my best. Honestly, I wish I could see this show five more times, and then perhaps I could more coherently write about it.

So, the story: a bomb goes off in a bus, killing the driver, a waitress, a nurse, and a student. This is not a spoiler. The story traces the backstories of these characters with the help of the ghost of a teenage girl (the ever-bubbly Victoria Diamond) herself died in that same bus. We follow the coroner (played by the playwright and director, Ms. Perreault) as she attempts to solve the mystery of who detonated the bombs.

It confronts issues of prejudice and islamaphobia, as the main suspect is a Muslim man, the student, carrying a suspicious-looking backpack, violence against women, mental illness, alcoholism, and the news coverage of tragedies. And man, does it do it well. Using unchronological storytelling (a favourite tactic of mine), these ideas are explored separately by the various characters fighting for the spotlight to tell their story to the audience.

Pretty good plot, right? But what truly makes this piece special is its use of movement and music. Certain parts are choreographed and many of the actors are trained acrobats, and they tumble around the bus, reenacting their deaths in slow-motion. They pull themselves up to watch from above, they throw themselves on the ground, they roll and somersault and do handstands, sometimes while eerily dancing to the background music.

ALSO, the use of video. Quite a lot of things were projected onto the walls of the bus, from text messages to headlines to a video captured by a cell phone camera to footage captured live of the actors in the bus and projected for the audience to see. We get this sense of media-overload, and it’s fantastic.

And, and, AND, the actors. Each one of them was so, so great. I felt for all of them, and they perfectly captured these nuanced characters, all flawed, all imperfect, but all with stories to tell. The use of both French and English actors and the bilingualism was perfectly, authentically Montreal, as the play is set in the city and name drops metro stations and squares.

I’m not at all capturing this play the way I want to, both for anyone interested and for myself, because I honestly wish I could see this show again. If you have the time this weekend, I highly, highly recommend it. It’s probably my top play of the year so far.

All in all, wonderful play, AMAZING direction, just all around a gorgeous production. This is something you want to see for yourself.

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Revolution They Wrote: Short Works Theatre Festival

Whoo, feminist theatre! Female creators! Stories about women written by women!

If you’re into any of these things, you should probably check out Revolution They Wrote, Concordia’s Short Works Feminist Theatre Festival going on this weekend at the MainLine Gallery on St-Laurent. It’s a collection of four shows, all describing various aspects of female experience, each between 25 and 50 minutes long, in one night. They still have two performances left: one tonight, Saturday March 19, and one tomorrow. Tickets are $3 for one show and $10 for all four, and they begin at 8 PM.

That’s all the technical stuff. Now, about the actual shows!

The Izzy Spectrum

Written by Cleopatra Boudreau, The Izzy Spectrum explores the fluidity of sexuality and sexual orientation. Super contemporary and set in Montreal, which made it feel totally accessible. It tells the story of young adult Izzy coming to terms with her sexuality after spending the night with another woman. This show was performed as a staged reading, as it’s still a work in progress, but nothing about it felt incomplete. Boudreau’s writing is hilarious, sweet, and very real. None of the humour felt forced, very much to the credit of the fantastic cast bursting with energy.

A Chorus of Unidentified Singers (ACOUS)

As this was originally a poetry piece, this show was very close to spoken word. ACOUS, written by Jess Glavina, discusses the unnamed role of women in both history and the contemporary world. Simple, elegant staging and lack of props focused the audience’s attention on the poetic script, divided into five acts, I believe. Each act almost acted as a movement-based poem. The silence between the lines spoke almost as much as the words themselves. Gorgeous piece.

RE:FUSE

I’d call RE:FUSE the most experimental piece of the night. Created and performed by Madeline Smart and Kathleen McKeown, it explores the cyclical nature of violence against women. What an exciting piece of performance art! The text was very sparse but completely effective, as it was very movement-based. At times funny, at times scary, but always exhilarating, RE:FUSE is a wild ride. Expect tutus, fantastic lighting, bowls of water, and lots of physicality. And most of all, prepare to be surprised.

The Blood Countess

The last piece of the night, The Blood Countess by Calla Wright and Emily Schon, tells the true story of Elizabeth Báthory, noblewoman in the 16th-century Kingdom of Hungary who was accused of killing and torturing hundreds of young women between 1585 and 1610. According to Schon, also the artistic director of Revolution They Wrote, it talks about “the fucked up way women are remembered in history,” and that it does. The piece is performed by three talented actors, all in the role of Elizabeth, and they seamlessly interact to tell the variations of the countess’s story. Such effective storytelling, simple but powerful use of props and sounds, the show is both fascinating and horrifying to watch. A fantastic way to end the night.

This is a really exciting festival, and it’s only in its second year so far. I can’t wait to see where it goes in future years, and I really hope you can make the time to drop by and experience these wonderful theatre pieces. You have until Sunday night!

The Breakfast Club at MainLine Theatre – Montreal

Yes, that Breakfast Club.

Okay, I’ve been looking forward to this production since I found out about it back in like, October. I’ve always thought that this iconic 80’s movie would make a fantastic stage play, and it turns out, I was right! This was an incredible production by d2 productions montréal. It was my first time seeing a show of theirs, and I will definitely be keeping an eye on them! This show has a home at the MainLine theatre, this literal hole in the wall, part-bar part-theatre. I absolutely adore tiny theatres like this one. Know that I will be back.

This production was directed by Dale Hayes, one half of the d’s in d2 productions, and she did an excellent job. This movie is so iconic, and it’s quite a trick to capture its essence while moving it to a stage. Very simple set with musical transitions inspired by the 80’s both set the tone of the show, and it was pulled off very well. The screenplay was kept mostly intact, with all your favourite lines included, but some new elements were added that fit right in with the original. This didn’t feel like a copy of the movie, it really does stand on its own.

The cast was INCREDIBLE. The more I dive into Montreal theatre, the more fantastic performers I get to discover. What a talented city. It was so great to see this amazing group of young actors take the stage and put their own spin on these characters. The emotional range of this show is huge, and these actors totally did it justice. I’ve always personally had a hard time relating to the character of Andrew (The Athlete), but Johan DeNora just absolutely did it for me. He had me near tears, man.

Of course, you can’t have a successful Breakfast Club without a good Bender, and Sofian Lahyanssa absolutely did the role justice. I ADORED Hannah Dorozio’s performance of Allison, and David Hudon’s Brian and Teneisha Collins’s Claire totally brought the whole thing together. As an ensemble, they were fantastic. Their energies and interactions completely immersed me in the story. And yeah, Patrizio Sanzari’s Mr. Vernon pretty much had me fuming.

All in all, I was far from disappointed, considering my high expectations. I think it would have been interesting to fit the play into a single act – the whole story feels like a single moment in time, and this change might have highlighted that feeling. There really isn’t much continuity to the story, as the characters go back and forth between being enemies and friends, so it was weird for me when intermission made a break in the show. (On the other hand, it would be so hard to cut this show down, because so much of it is THAT GOOD.) But still, as a whole, I was so impressed. Definitely glad I made the trip to catch this production.

You have until Sunday March 6  to see it! Tickets are $15 general admission and $10 for students/seniors. Tickets can be bought online or at the door.